From sights and smells to cutlery and layout, there’s a lot that goes into the design of an effective canteen when working with a catering consultant. In this article, we discuss how the design of your canteen can impact the way a customer thinks and behaves… and why that’s important.

First of all, let’s start with the why.

Why does canteen design matter?

The first thought we have when it comes to a great canteen design is that it makes the visit more enjoyable, but let’s go deeper into understanding why it matters.

A well-designed canteen with the support of a catering consultant is more likely to attract employees to want to use it - not just as a one-off but on a regular basis. This can have a huge impact on the sales that a canteen makes over the long term.

Clever positioning of certain elements also means that you can guide or influence the decisions that employees make in what they buy. You’ve probably heard stories about supermarkets putting the milk at the back of the store and the snacks at the counter. This is just one of many ways that a shopper is subtly influenced in their purchasing decision.

Tempting a customer to buy a particular meal or item has various benefits, for example;

  • to encourage healthy eating
  • buy items with good profit margins or
  • helping to reduce food waste if there is a surplus

It also creates opportunities for upsell or cross-sell (such as a side salad or a dessert with the main meal) and the more a customer enjoys their meal, the more likely they are going to come back.

Elements that impact canteen psychology

At Ramsay Todd, as professional catering consultants we work closely with designers to ensure the catering facility is fit for purpose.  Here are a few examples of the elements to consider:


The materials you use in designing a canteen, as well as the positioning of equipment and furniture, can impact how someone feels when they visit a canteen. If you are looking for a laid-back relaxed atmosphere, then a wooden-style finish with more open spaces is good. If you want a fast-paced environment with employees spending less time at their tables then a more compact set up with more upright and possibly plastic seats should be used.


Certain colours such as orange and red stimulate hunger while green can entice people to eat more healthily.


As well as enticing people to your canteen, strong food smells can also impact what we buy. We all know that the wafting smell of bacon is hard to resist, right? The smell also doesn’t have to be related to a specific food item. A smell of cleanliness or relaxing scents can also have a positive impact.

According to research, custom scents can increase sales by up to 300%!*

Journey to the till:

The entire layout, from the minute the customer enters the canteen until they pay, can influence what they buy and how they feel about their experience.

A flowing process with less waiting is more likely to create a happy customer while the positioning of items such as fruit, drinks and desserts can influence what they buy.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to the “journey to the till” and it’s important to work with experienced catering consultants who can guide you in making the right decisions.

Lighting and acoustics:

Brighter lighting tends to create more urgency and action, whereas ambient lighting creates a more relaxing atmosphere. An effective lighting set-up can include having different lighting in the seating area to create a different atmosphere.

As well as lighting, having the right acoustics is important. Louder noises (to a certain extent) increase consumption and give an atmosphere of a busy bustling restaurant area.


Call our catering consultants and food service consultants today to get started!


We have discussed a lot about the psychology behind canteen design and there’s a lot more to consider. If you are looking for a catering consultant. London, Hertfordshire and the home counties are some of the areas that we cover. Get in touch with our food service consultants to find out how we can help with your canteen and food service processes.